All posts tagged: Church

Are micro churches, the church of the future?

The COVID lockdowns has caused some church leaders to take a second look at their church structures. Typically, most churches have meetings on Sunday morning in a larger building with one main pastor/teacher leading the service. But the lockdowns are challenging that structure as governments are fining, and in some instances even threatening jail time, if churches continue meeting on Sunday morning. With the lockdowns continuing into 2021, and in some instances with harsher restrictions that 2020, some churches are adapting. There is a new trend emerging called micro churches involving smaller gatherings of between 10 and 40 people. They typically meet in homes or a neutral setting such as coffee shops, and they are fully functioning churches. Many larger congregations already utilize house churches that meet during the week in addition to the main Sunday morning service. These additional meetings are often poorly attended, because if busy, people typically cut out the house church meeting since it is not considered the “church’s main service.” But some are wondering if these smaller groups should be …

Tens of thousands of Chinese pastors in hiding, report

According to a report by Asia Harvest, tens of thousands of Chinese pastors have gone into hiding in China to avoid persecution by the tyrannical Communist regime. Part of this includes removing themselves from the internet by disconnecting their cell phones and computers. As well, people are required to have a government-issued identity card with them at all times. However, it also contains a chip that gives the government limited ability to track people, so some pastors have also found ways to disable that chip. The Christian Post explains: “Each person in China must have an ID card. It is impossible for a person to catch a flight or train, open a bank account, get a job, or rent an apartment without using their card. Each ID card contains a computer chip which is also used to track people’s movements,” the [Asia Harvest] newsletter added. Yet, despite this the church in China, that is apparently heading back underground under its current tyrant, Xi Jinping, has doing remarkably well as Christian Post adds: Despite persecution, Christianity …

Recent Gallup Poll shows why churches are essential

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis just announced that churches were essential and removed the state’s attendance caps that restricted religious services. In part, Polis was responding to Liberty Counsel’s recent legal victories where courts ruled that US states can not violate religious freedoms guaranteed in the American Constitution by restricting church services in the name of COVID. And a recent poll by Gallup concurs that churches are indeed essential services. The survey, conducted between Nov 5 and 19, revealed that people over the age of 18 who attended religious services were experiencing better mental health than those who weren’t. In the 2020 pandemic year, 46% of people who attended church services reported excellent health and surprisingly this was even higher than the 2019 pre-pandemic years when 42% in the same group reported excellent mental health. Gallup also noted that those who regularly attended religious services was the only demographic that showed an increase in those claiming excellent mental health over the previous year. For Americans as a whole, the Gallup poll revealed only 34% described their …

Healing the racial divide: A black and white congregation merge

An interesting thing happened in Salisbury, North Carolina when two churches decided to merge. Now, there is nothing particularly unusual about churches merging, because I was even part one several years back. But this was a bit different because it involved the merging of a black church pastored by a young black man, Derek Hawkins, and a predominantly white mega church pastored by Jay Stewart. And in the light of the racial divisions appearing in America’s social fabric, this may have more significance than we realize as both pastors felt they were led by the Holy Spirit to do this. In an interview with the Christian Post (CP), Hawkins said the first step to the unlikely merger started in 2014, when he took his daughter to have her hair done and came across a sign for a downtown extension of Stewart’s mega church, The Refuge. This led to Derek attending a service and eventually asking the older middle-aged Stewart to take on a mentoring role as Derek was preparing to pastor a church in nearby …

Swiss court declares worship a human right and reverses the government’s ban on church services

In the midst of the COVID-1984 lockdown, many governments have been particularly keen on trying to stop Church services under the guise of stopping COVID. However, the Catholic News Agency is reporting that one of the most restrictive bans has come to an abrupt end in the Canton of Geneva in Switzerland when a judge ruled that the COVID-1984 ban on church services was unconstitutional. The government ban had stopped all church services and allowed only limited attendance at funerals and weddings. Several Christians in the Canton challenged the ban arguing it impinged on their religious freedom. The judge gave a temporary restraining order allowing services to restart until the case was heard at a later date. The judge noted the state would probably lose the case because its ban violated the Swiss constitution that guarantees freedom of worship. Switzerland has 26 Cantons, and the judge’s ruling means that services are allowed to restart in Switzerland’s capital city, Geneva. Switzerland has the reputation of supposedly being the “human rights capital of the world” but its …

The Covid Crisis: Are you ready for the virtual God?

We are living in strange times, and this is a very strange year. I don’t want to criticize the authorities who must make hard choices, but some restrictions are strange. Where I live, the government and the medical authorities are being cautious with social restrictions. We are mostly warned to be careful, and given good advice. I haven’t heard about fines or arrests for breaking the rules. My work, for the government, is high-risk, and I have a generous supply of spray cleaner and hand disinfectant. I also have training on how to use the cleaners and stay safe. A neighbor goes to a church near us and they are probably still refusing to wear masks in their services. No one is talking about this in the news, my neighbor told me when I met him in the back alley. Do you believe in God? If you are a believer, what tells you to believe? What are the signals that you need? Do you attend a church or a temple, a mosque or a synagogue, …

Have COVID lockdowns turned into COVID-1984 tyranny?

Recently, Dr. Dennis Jackman, a physician and pastor of United Methodist Church in Pasadena, Maryland was threatened with a $5,000 fine, jail time and a complete shut down of the church because he was not wearing a mask while ALONE in his church. I think that needs to be repeated he was all by himself in the church when an inspector with the local health authority showed up after receiving a tip off from a snitch that “there might be somebody here without a mask on.” Maryland has been actively promoting its snitch line where citizens can turn in their enemies, family, friends and neighbours for real or imagined violations of the state’s COVID lockdown. According to the Christian Post, Jackman was in his office when he heard someone trying to open the church’s locked front doors. He wasn’t expecting anyone so Jackman decided to check what was going on. When he opened the door and saw someone standing there, Jackman returned to his desk and got his mask. But because he wasn’t wearing a …

Canadian RCMP block a drive-in church service

RCMP in the town of Steinbach, Manitoba blocked people from attending a drive-in church service this past Sunday, where people would remain in their cars and listen to a service being broadcast by a shortwave FM. Apparently, Manitoba’s health officials are concerned that people listening to a service in their cars with the windows rolled up could transfer COVID to neighbouring vehicles. Like they say, we must trust the science.

Growing support of civil disobedience for church services: Poll

According to a recent poll conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, and Ryan Burge, an Eastern Illinois University professor, there is a growing support for churches to defy the COVID-1984 lockdowns and start holding church services. But here is what is really bizarre. The poll showed that while over 60% of Americans were fine with church’s defying COVID0-1984 lockdowns, only 34% of church attenders supported such acts of civil disobedience.

US Supreme Court blocks Cuomo’s church lockdown

New York’s Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo is probably most famous for sending COVID patients to nursing homes and those most vulnerable to the virus. So, when Gov. Cuomo recently implemented COVID-1984 restrictions limiting church attendance in certain areas of the state to 10 or 25, a Catholic Church and two Jewish synagogues challenged Cuomo in court.

Francis Chan: The pandemic may be good for the church

The recent COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown has resulted in one of the most difficult times for the church in North America. Experts are warning that there is a possibility that 20% of the churches many not even make it. Churches and believers in California face severe fines, and even jail, if they resume services during the lock down. READ: ‘We Are Not Closing,’ Pastor Declares after County Fines Church $52,750 for Worship Services Though many consider these to be dark days for the church, Frances Chan says these difficult times may in fact be a good thing for the North American church. Chan was the former lead pastor and founder of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California. He has since left the church and is ministering in the slums of Hong Kong, where his mother once ministered. At Q Sessions, that featured several Christian leaders discussing the current pandemic crisis including attacks on religious liberties, Chan had this to say about what churches are facing today: “When you look at the places where there …

The nerd rapture: Are we in a religious revolution?

One rule about religion is that things change when communication changes. The first Christians spoke and wrote on scrolls. Things changed with bound books, and then printing presses, which produced the Protestant Reformation. Radio, and television, and now the Internet have radically changed human communication, and we can expect big changes in the way people find God. Some people call this the nerd rapture. We are connected by the Web, and this year we are isolated by a virus pandemic. Expect changes. In the time of scrolls and preachers, Jesus told His followers to communicate: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16: 15 and 16) That is easier to do that now, than any time in history. The speaker on the TEDx video predicts a religious revolution based on communication. He mixes in his own advice, but he is correct with his basic prediction.

Orthodox Rituals in a Changing World: How do believers cope?

What we do might have to change, for health reasons. Belief is important to any Christian, but many struggle to adapt their practices. Eastern Orthodox Christians have many rituals, practices that are sacred to them, but they also have a health emergency. This new world can bring us all back to the starting place; “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) We might laugh as the priest in a country area, but he is trying to keep his faith in challenging times. On a larger scale, many churches are struggling to adapt to a world-changing crisis.

Preparing for the end times

When the warden for All Saints’ Radford church in Nottinghamshire showed up at the church on Sunday, July 26, 2020, Lorraine Smedley discovered that vandals had painted upside down crosses and swastikas on the church building. The Nottinghamshire police referred to it as a “hate crime.” Across the English Channel in France, reports indicate the number of attacks against Christian churches in that country has increased nearly 300% in just 12 years according to the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe (OIDACE), a Venice-based organization. OIDACE reports that in 2018, the French government officially stated that there were 275 attacks, fires and vandalism, against churches in that county. That number had climbed to 1,052 attacks by 2019, representing a 285% increase. Recently, there was an arson attack on a 500-year-old Cathedral in Nantes, France on July 18, 2020. Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg because these simply represent threats and attacks against physical structures. In 2018, the French government reported that there were 2,000 hate crimes against Christians. Though …

Several churches vandalized over the past week

According to an article on Fox News, several churches across the US were attacked in the last week and authorities are wondering if this is related to the recent protests. Fox News writes: A slew of Catholic churches from Florida to California were burned and vandalized over the weekend as police continue to investigate whether or not they are connected to protests targeting symbols and statues. Following George Floyd’s police-related death in May, Black Lives Matter leaders and protesters called for the toppling of statues, from Confederate symbols to former U.S. presidents and abolitionists. Activist Shaun King called for all images depicting Jesus as a “White European” and his mother to be torn down because they’re forms of “White supremacy” and “racist propaganda.” The list included:  A man drove his car into Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Florida during a morning service. He then got out of the car poured gasoline and set fire to the church while people were inside. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The man allegedly suffered from schizophrenia. The 249-year-old San Gabriel church in Los Angeles, California also had a major fire. The church …

Religions: Who has the money?

Any time you want to offend people and start an argument, talk about religion and money. Tithing, or regular giving is also a good spark. I believe that giving regularly leads us to manage all of our money carefully; counting is accounting. But who has the most money? Atheists and Agnostics are near the top, and among religions, Jews, Hindus, and Episcopalians (Anglicans). Mormons are average, Jehovah’s Witnesses are below, and historically black groups are poor. Managing what we have, much or little, is a project for everyone, and it’s a lesson some haven’t learned. Jesus told us about a disorganized man “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” (Luke 14:30) READ: You’ll Be Surprised at Which Religions Have the Most Members with $100K+ Incomes

Good News in a Pandemic

Sometimes people just act out what they are. A group of Christians noticed that people were hungry in their community, so they organized a food distribution program. The Corona virus pandemic is scaring us all, and it keeps us isolated from our neighbors. Those Christians acted out and gave food to the neighbors, because those neighbors were hungry. I don’t know them but I guess it just seemed like simple math. People like this deserve our respect. The true Christian Church is not a charity, it’s a home for recovering sinners. When we get a new life from God, with a new perspective, good things just naturally happen. READ: Local church feeds 200 people impacted by pandemic

Government’s latest COVID-19 conspiracy theory

Apparently, some governments believe COVID-19 can be transmitted through car exhaust. When a small church in Greenville, Mississippi decided to hold a drive-in church service, where people stayed in their cars and listened to the service in the parking lot through low-frequency FM, the mayor ordered 20 police officers to storm the church and stop this dangerous gathering. Since the parishioners were not getting out of their vehicles, are we to presume these people were breaking the law because their cars were not wearing masks? READ: Police Officers Storm Mississippi Church for Hosting Drive-In Services

Who is the Jewish Messiah — Jesus or Rabbi Schneerson?

There is an interesting story on Breaking Israel News (BIN) of how a group of Orthodox Jews from an organization called the Yad L’Achim recently prevented a Christian missionary group from baptizing several Jews in the Sea of Galilee. There was no mention of  the name of the Christian organization. The plan was to transport the Jews from Tel Aviv to Tiberias for the baptism. According to BIN the organization decided to baptize the Jews on the sabbath believing it would hinder any opposition as the Old Testament law limits travel on the sabbath for Orthodox Jews. But apparently there was away around it, or they just ignored the prohibition against travel and about 15 students who attended a Yad L’Achim religious school in Tel Aviv made their way to the spot that the Jews were preparing to load a bus to Tiberias. Some orthodox Jews were wearing shirts, “Jew stop! Christianity is not our way.” There was a bit of a confrontation at the bus between the missionaries and the members of Yad L’Achim …

Pay to Pray: Can We Afford God?

I have just spent some time in an isolated northern city where real estate is too expensive. All the churches are small, and I think there is a mosque and a Sikh temple. I’m not sure about the religious buildings because they are all small, and easy to miss. A big building costs millions. Next to the house where I stayed is a house church. It looks to me like one church operates out of the members houses, and it seems to be doing well. One church petitioned the city to take over some park land and change it to a parking lot. They wanted the land for free, but they promised to invest more than a million dollars. I understand the mayor attends that church, and you can imagine the angry debate in the community. I heard yesterday that the church had withdrawn the request. So, how do we worship God when a parking lot costs a million dollars? And how do we pay the salaries for pastors, so they can support their families? …

Church in Hishult, Sweden Credit: Jacob Surland/Flickr/Creative Commons

Where Is the Love?

Cue Black Eyed Peas I always seem to get a giddy feeling when I see competitive sports with good sportsmanship. Something about the opposing team helping their opposition up off the ground, giving acknowledgement when someone makes a good play against you, or giving a high-five after a solid punch to the face. Granted, it’s not a very common occurrence, but I absolutely love to see that type of comradery from the opposition. But then, the question begs to be asked: Why do we lack this type of behavior in the church? I don’t mean to say that it doesn’t exist, but nearly every church has seen some kind of separation through its years. I haven’t seen anything extreme, but I’ve heard of people getting worked up enough over the music or seating arrangement that they feel the need to find a new home for Sunday morning. A couple of years ago, I did see some division in my home church. While I won’t get into the specifics of what went on, one of the …

Credit: Sydney Daoust/Flickr/Creative Commons

Oh, you are such a loser!

A new buzz word in pop psychology is “vulnerable.” There is some good advice out there, and this idea can be good for us. If I looked at you and said “loser!” I would be rude, and you would take that as an insult. We learned that in elementary school. So, “loser!” I just called you a loser, and you can say the same to me. If we are not losers, we are failures. Every Christian should know the words in the Bible “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) That is the bedrock of our Christian faith. Jesus made it right, after we made it wrong. A few days ago, I had a meeting with an old friend. We talked about business and we also had time to catch up on our personal stories, like old friends. This man is a Christian, my brother in Christ, and he described himself as …

Credit: EBCanon/Flickr/Creative Commons

Your Money and the Church – Part 3

Here is one of the best secrets for managing your generosity and giving of money: Don’t. If you spend any time among religious people, you will be asked for money. When I go to church on Sunday, there is always an offering, a time when all other business stops and the ushers collect money from us. I have lived with this all my life and I have an acquired immunity, but some people who come with me are offended and disoriented. What will God think about them if they don’t give enough? So, don’t give. The exercise will be good for you. Yesterday I was walking in the mall. It’s not really my place but I had a meeting with someone. At an intersection in the walkways, I saw a display booth with two young women looking hopeful. They represented one of those Christian charities that sponsor children and they were looking for sponsors. I won’t name the organization, but there are several and they do very good work. What bothered me was all the …

There are no racial barriers in God’s church

I don’t think we fully appreciate the significance of what happened when the Holy Spirit fell upon a group of gentiles as Peter was preaching in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48). It took a vision for Peter, where God declared a number of animals clean, and an angelic visit for Cornelius to get these two groups together. After the Holy Spirit fell, it caused such a controversy in the early church they called a meeting to figure out what do to with the hundreds of gentiles becoming Christians. But a few Bible verses and even archaeology provide a hint of what a radical change this was for the early church that was initially made up of solely Jews. In 1871 a stone slab from the Jewish Temple that existed in Jesus day was discovered by archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau. On the slab written in Greek was: “No foreigner is allowed to enter the courtyard and enclosure surrounding the temple. Whoever is caught will be responsible to himself for his death, which will ensue.” Greek was …

Roof of booths set up in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles Credit: Yoninah/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Converging end times prophecies of Orthodox Jews and Christians

Breaking Israel News (BIN) has always been a source of interesting articles. Published by a group of Orthodox Jews, I find that they have much in common with Christians. They believe the Old Testament is the inspired Word of God and though they reject Jesus as the Messiah, they nevertheless are looking ahead to the coming Jewish Messiah. And while we look at events taking place on earth as a sign of Jesus second return, they interpret many of those same signs as evidence of the Jewish Messiah’s coming. Recently BIN published an article listing five Biblical prophecies fulfilled in 2017 that pointed to the soon arrival of the Jewish Messiah. In her article, Eliana Rudee the first one she discusses is: “Jerusalem as a place of assembly for non-Jews.” There were a number of Old Testament prophecies that spoke of the gentiles pouring into Israel at the end of the age. In her article, Rudee cites a verse out of Zechariah: 16 Then it will come about that any who are left of all the …

Polwarth, England Credit: Hamish Irvine/Flickr/Creative commons

The Critical Mass: How We Can Fail

On Sunday, in church, the pastor told us about people who had been helped in the last year. He told testimonial stories about cancer patients and struggling families. And then he told us about a man who had walked into the church to learn more. He was not a Christian, but he was interested. The pastor talked to him and gave him a book, and a few weeks later the man called to say that he had decided to become a Christian. Now he attends the Sunday services as a new Christian, growing in his faith. The man’s name is Mohammed. We live in interesting times. Now Muslim majority countries are modernizing, and Muslims are migrating to other countries with high levels of personal freedom. That means people can break free from the group, and choose how they want to live. This is becoming a crisis, as some young Muslims identify as atheists. Others, like Mohammed, choose another religion. RELATED: Losing their religion: the hidden crisis of faith among Britain’s young Muslims: The Guardian The …

Ritsumazijl, Frise, Netherlands Credit: Hindrik Sijens/Flickr/Creative Commons

How far is far enough?

[by Keith Hazell] “Don’t go too far dear.”  These were frequent words that I heard from Mother when I was growing up. Usually, it was a warning that there was an unmarked perimeter that I should not pass. However, once on a beach in the UK during the Second World War, the warning was to remind me not to go under the barbed wire onto the sand where land-mines were buried. Thus to hear such a warning, is to realize that going beyond certain limits where things appear ok, can actually put us in mortal danger. One of the currents going through the church to-day questions the value and purpose of church as we have known it in the past. It is said that the church has no relevance and its meetings are no longer a place where believers can actively and meaningfully interact and express the life of Christ. There is a legitimate need to get back to a simpler form of Christian Life and to re-discover the lifestyle and benefits of a closer …

Wailing Wall in Jerusalem Credit: Fernando+Merced/Flickr/Creative Commons

Is the church actually the continuation of Israel?

It’s an age-old question. Is the church the continuation of Israel or something completely new that God started after Israel failed to fulfill God’s will? The church under this latter scenario is God’s second choice, an afterthought. To bring some perspective on this I was intrigued by an article on Breaking Israel News about a sermon recently preached by a famous Hasidic Jewish Rabbi Alon Anava. He was speaking at the 23rd anniversary of the death of another renown orthodox Rabbi, Menachem Schneerson. In his sermon Anava spoke of the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Though the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, orthodox Jews still believe in a promised Messiah. In fact, many believe signs suggest that the Jewish Messiah will be revealed very soon. But Anaya said in order for the Messiah to come, the Jews must first preach the Torah to the gentiles: “You know what is missing? The nations of the world. Now all we need to do is involve a couple billion people from the other nations to be part of the redemption.” …